Category Archives: Networking

5 Tips for Planning a Sydney Meetup

20 publicI’ve been known to organise a few events here and there, but more often I’m attending events. I attend a lot of events actually. Sometimes, when I’m really busy, it’s almost every night of the week. It’s my plan to write an eBook guide on “How to organise a free or low cost community-based event in Sydney.” I want to give practical advice on venues, ticketing platforms, event format, and communication for people who have a great idea but perhaps have never run their own meetup. Some of it is common sense, but I think there will definitely be some value to be shared for the Sydney community.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few quick tips that have been on my mind.

1. List your event details online

Remember when I said some of this advice would be obvious? Yes, this is one of those tips. However, time and time again I struggle to find event pages and registration information. Is this event open to everyone? Do I need to print my ticket? When does it start? What’s the format?  Share as much information as possible to help people (especially new people that you haven’t met yet) feel comfortable showing up to your event.

2. Create your event hashtag early

If you want the event to be shared on Twitter with a specific hashtag, start using it early. Even before you have a registration page or speaker you can start communicating all messages on Twitter with that hashtag. This is often an after thought. The organiser will realize they want people to tweet with a specific hashtag at the start of the event (or halfway through). By this time people have crated their own, or perhaps assumed that people wouldn’t be talking about the event on Twitter collectively.

Bonus: Please also make sure it’s something short, easy to remember and somehow ties in with the event name. However, that’s another post for another time.

3. Choose an appropriate venue

Again, this might seem like another obvious tip, but I attend a lot of meetups where the space doesn’t suit the event. If you want people to be able to have conversations, perhaps avoid the noisy pub. It helps to visit or experience locations before choosing to host there if possible. Think about the type of experience you want people to have. Do you want it to be intimate with fewer people having conversations? Host a dinner. Do you want the whole city to attend? Then book a big room.

4. Introduce your event attendees

I’m a firm believer that great event organisers should know or meet everyone who comes to meetup. Of course, this is definitely much more difficult with large-scale or one-time events, but the host or hostess should always make an effort to meet people in attendance. Great hosts will also introduce other attendees, and more than just event in a polite “you both look lonely, so you should chat” type way. They should look to introduce people who could benefit from knowing each other.  If people make connections that are personally valuable to them, chances are they will be back to your meetup or event again.

5. Be wary of event fatigue

So you run an awesome meetup or event (every week, month, quarter, etc.) and suddenly after many awesome events you’re simply burnt out. That’s okay. Everyone gets tired and you don’t have an obligation to continue organising your event. However, if you’ve created something awesome with a community and following it’s also a shame to shut it down. Consider setting up a team to help you from the start so when the day comes where you’re ready to leave the meetup, others can take over. The event can live on without you and continue to be valuable to the attendees.

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Steal My Ideas

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I had a really lovely catch-up this week with a new friend Garry. He is a photographer and the local community guy over at Blurb. We spent a good couple hours talking about projects we wanted to work on, and ideas for projects that we wanted to do, but didn’t have time for. We also spent some time talking about those ideas for projects that we want someone else to do… seriously. Don’t you ever have ideas for big projects or businesses that you would love for someone just to pick up and run with? I secretly hope that if I pitch these ideas to enough people that I’ll plant in their head and they’ll just execute it for me. I suppose that’s not very likely.

Even the projects that we want to do ourselves, I think are best shared. Sometimes we’re scared to share ideas because someone might “steal” it from us.  Everyone who watched The Social Network is now walking around thinking that the next Mark Zuckerburg is going to launch a competitor website before you can. However I have to believe this is hardly the reality. We are often the ones who are most passionate about our ideas, and many times the idea itself is not so unique.

I want to share more of my ideas. I have found this to be very rewarding lately. I enjoy the feedback, and brainstorming element. I’m not sure what the limitations should be when sharing ideas with competitors, or maybe there shouldn’t be any.

Do you enjoy sharing ideas you have for projects or businesses? 

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Never Eat Alone: 4 Networking Tips

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I’m always telling people about how Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is my favourite business book. It made me cry (not sure if that’s a normal reaction). It was a gift from my best friend senior year of college. Ferrazzi put into words exactly what I had on my mind, but didn’t know how to say at the time. He validated the way I feel about networking and relationships.

Here are a few beautiful lessons I’ve learned from that book, and just from living. I hope they’re insightful or relatable for you.

Give to others without expecting something in return. Give your time and talent. Help connect people, teach someone, give someone a recommendation or advice. Don’t ask, “What will this action deliver me in return?” as a condition of choosing to help someone. Give selflessly, and your life will be richer. I swear by this tip.

Never attend a “networking” event. Every event is a networking event. In fact, life is one big networking event. I love Ferrazzi’s approach to networking as a lifestyle and I’ve tried to adopt this same attitude.

Understand and ‘see’ relationships. I refer to this as my “online stalking tip.” The internet has A LOT of information (if you haven’t figured that out by now) so use it to your advantage. Understand how people are connected. Research what they do, learn their story and see who their friends are. Be driven by relationships before and after meeting new people.

Be genuine and interested. Gosh this one is important. If you are hitting on tips 1-3 and mucking up this one you could get in trouble. I would give you the advice of ‘fake it till you make it,’ but I’m not sure if that applies here. Please be genuine in all that you do. It will help your relationships thrive.

Have you read Never Eat Alone? What advice would you add to this list?

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Rules of Twitter: Are you following me?

A friend from the blogging world, Tim (aka @anotherguy) brought up an interesting topic related to Twitter this week. He tweeted “If I unfollowed everyone and instead put the people I follow into lists, how many of you would hate me forever?” 

I was surprised by this. I’ve had chats with Tim before online and he always seemed like such a genuine and relationship driven person. I seek out liked-minded people on Twitter to follow and enjoy it for that reason. I wondered why he had this outlook.

Unfollowing everyone on my list would worry me for a few key reasons:

1. Perception. Unfortunately people do notice when you unfollow them or if you follow no one. While I can have an intelligent conversation about why I’m doing this on my personal Twitter account with closer contacts and a certain circle of friends, I probably can’t have that same conversation with all 2,000 of my followers. That’s not even counting the people I have yet to meet online. As someone who builds online communities and works in social media I feel that I should be following others. Yes, sometimes I do care what others think.

2. New contacts. It’s a big online world out there, just waiting to be discovered. I want to continue following new people, so they will follow back and learn more about me as well. I’m interested in meeting new people in my industry, people local to me, those with similar interests etc.

3. Opportunities to connect. If I were unfollow everyone on my list I wouldn’t be able to receive direct messages (DMs). I know that I’m still very reachable by other forms of communication (which might even be preferred) but I would hate to miss even one “hello” from someone who is attending the same conference as me, sitting across the room.

Tim, being the smart guy he is, has been conducting a bit of social experiment to see what type of reactions he got from creating lists instead of following people on Twitter. I’ve asked him if he would share his thoughts on here.

Tim’s Thoughts

As Hannah put very clearly, that question I asked nearly a week ago has a lot of potential to backfire on the person who was trying to execute and experience that answer. “What will happen if I unfollow nearly 1000 people on Twitter and put them into lists?” Well, that question has changed a bit for me. Now I can ask, “What has happened since I unfollowed nearly 1000 people?”

Am I trying to be antisocial? Absolutely not. In fact, as my recent blog post about this explains, I am doing this to build my relationships with these people beyond what is possible on Twitter. These short 140 character messages are great, but just like Hannah has said before, they aren’t conducive for long conversations, they limit you on getting to know someone on more than just a shallow level, and there is almost no place for private conversations. Even the DM system is limited in this way.

So I’ve moved everyone over into Twitter Lists and said goodbye to my twitter-stream. I no longer follow anyone but the companies I am directly involved with each day, and my co-workers. At the same time, though, I’ve added many more people to the lists that I follow than I would have followed directly. In my mind, at least, my social network on twitter has actually grown, not diminished. I still reply to every tweet that mentions me, and I check those lists as often as I need to (which are organized quite well, if I may say so myself).

Where I now lack DM’s, I ask people to send me emails, or even give me a call. My address is available for anyone to contact me through, and if you ask nicely I’ll even give you my direct phone number. I want to get to know you as a human being, not you as a twitter handle. When I recently went to a meetup of webOS developers in San Francisco, everyone introduced themselves by name. While a few of those names were familiar, it was only after we re-introduced ourselves by twitter-handles that we recognized everyone around the table. Have we lost even that basic fundamental human way of identifying other people?

Plus, after that’s all said and done, I just need more time to get to my work, and Twitter takes away a lot of that time. I am a writer, a developer and a community aggregator. I am not a Twitter-Guru (is there such a thing?), and being one will not make me a better writer (it may, in fact, work against me). By refocusing my time spent on Twitter to being engaged with people who are engaged in topics that I am interested in reading about at any moment (and that I’m viewing through those lists), I am cutting out the clutter and freeing myself from wasted time reading topics that do not matter for the task at hand. If I want to read about webOS, I pull up the webOS Community list. And if I have some time to laugh it up, I grab my Just For Fun list.

The change has come with very few consequences. I’ve lost no followers due to the change, and the followers that recognized the change actually encouraged me to do so. I’m still connecting with those same people regularly through the lists that I follow, and even through other communications channels now. No one has spoken out against my decision in any way, unless they were questioning why I had made the decision. In the end, everything is actually going much better than I had originally planned. Heck I even get to write an article with Hannah over here! 😉

Now, maybe this won’t work for everyone. And with only spending a week with no “twitter friends”, I may not have seen some of the problems that might show up later on. For right now, it’s working great, and I plan on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. After all, it took me four days to get through the whole process of transitioning everyone over. Call me lazy, but I think I’ve forced myself to stay here for a while longer. Hey, testing never hurt anyone.

You can connect with Tim on any of his social profiles here and be sure to check out what he’s sharing on his blog, AnotherGuy’s Weblog. You could also follow him on Twitter but don’t do it because you want a follow back.

How do you feel about following others back on Twitter? Please share your thoughts.


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My World Upside Down: SXSWi Recap

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I’ve been struggling on how to even begin describing my first SXSW interactive experience from this past week. It’s important for me to blog because I believe in the power of sharing good ideas and exchanging knowledge, so I’ll try my best.  I had an amazing time and it’s hard to fully convey the reasons I know this was an extremely valuable trip. It pieced together a lot of things for me and the timing (my senior year of college) couldn’t have been any better.

Despite knowing a handful of people going to Austin for SXSWi this was a trip I took alone. I made plans to stay with a friend of a friend who I had never met before and got permission from my professors to leave early before finals. This was my not only my first SXSWi but also my first visit to Austin. I had a vague idea of what to expect but overall decided to stick with a “go with the flow” attitude. I described my game plan to some friends as “organized chaos.”

I tried to do my homework before I went. I talked to people who had attended SXSW in previous years, emailed some online tweeps I wanted to meet, picked out the sessions that looked interesting and ordered my personal business cards. When the time came to leave I was still anxious but feeling more confident I knew what to do and could rock out SXSWi.

My first three days flew by. I seriously couldn’t even tell you what happened when, who I met what we did (no not because I was drinking too much). It was intense. Since I was traveling alone I was constantly being forced to meet new people. I loved it every moment of it. I bounced from group to group and made a ton of new friends. Also taking time to meet people I had only ever communicated with online.

hanging out w/ new friend @vero

Several people told me it’s the people you meet not the sessions or speakers that really make your time in Austin worthwhile. While I attended some great sessions, I would still have to agree. I’m walking away with the feeling that some of the people I met will become lifelong friends (thank goodness for social media keeping us connected). It sounds cliché but it’s true. I valued the feeling of being surrounded by people who want to go out and change the world. I think that was another key piece of this trip; the opportunity to meet a group of people who understood the importance of looking ahead the future.

I plan on blogging more of my thoughts from the trip soon. I did write up a post for The Next Great Generation called Embracing Your Gen Y Status: SXSWi Edition if you want to check that out. Visit here again soon for more updates.

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Networking, So Classic.

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I struggle at times to explain to my parents and some [ahem] older friends the world of social networking. Yes, there are such things as tweet-ups and yes, I do meet with people in person that I first met online. If you an avid user of these online tools this may seem very normal. If you are my father who doesn’t even have an email account, it’s not only foreign but also perhaps a bit frightening. There is a certain amount of distrust for him with the internet. Stories of children being abducted by people they met in chat rooms comes to mind. I realize that not everyone sees these online networks the same way I do.

It has been my experience that social networking is really not that different from traditional networking. It’s an old game but the tools and platform are just evolving. We meet people in the places we hang out, work, spend time, etc. So instead of hanging out at a local coffee shop, I’m spending my time on Twitter. There is etiquette to interacting with people. The rules of networking are still there. You meet people and build trust gradually.

So many of the people that I first meet online I’ve later met in person. I never feel as though I’m meeting a “stranger” for coffee or lunch. These are people that exist in my network already. Perhaps my friend has met them before or I’ve seen them at an event. I don’t want you to think that I don’t value meeting people in “real life.” In fact, I find it’s very important and part of what makes social media a great tool to assist in meeting new contacts in person.

It’s not just people like my parents who get confused on how social networking sites work. Students also get a mixed message. They are told they should be participating in social media because there are job offers, chances to meet professionals and other opportunities. This is true, however no one seems to follow up with the second part of that message. The rewards of social media are not for just being a member or participant of x, y, z site. You must be engaged and understand how the system works. The classic staples of networking still apply online. Focusing on relationships over time is so important.

What are your thoughts? Do you view more traditional networking the same way you view social networking sites? Is this typically a generational phenomenon in your opinion?

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